Voter apathy could kill schools’ hopes
With the election of Bond Measure C less than three weeks away, campaign coordinator John Upton said he’s intensifying his efforts to get the $17 million school bond measure passed by voters.
The measure, which will go before voters in a special election held in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District on May 4, is the only item on the ballot.
And, for that reason, Upton said he’s afraid people will forget to vote.
To solve the problem, a large portion of his campaign is dedicated to getting people to vote by absentee ballot.
El Dorado County officials agree.
“Because of the way the weather has been, I’m afraid people won’t go out to vote,” El Dorado County Registrar of Voters Michelle MacIntyre said. “Applications to vote absentee must be received by the Registrars of Voters by April 27.”
MacIntyre said the turnout for absentee ballots has been strong.
“We’ve already mailed over 1,500 ballots, which shows that people are interested in the measure,” she said.
Upton said that for the most part the interest in the measure has been positive, with endorsements from different organizations in the community. Among them are the Lake Tahoe Community College Board of Trustees, South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, South Lake Tahoe Board of Realtors and the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association.
While it’s a hefty list of supporters, Upton said not everyone he’s contacted in the campaign has been in favor of the measure.
“There’s a certain share of people who will be against it because it will cost them money,” he said.
The bond would cost home owners in the district about $12.50 per year of $100,000 of assessed property value in property taxes.
“There’s no organized group against it, but it takes two yes votes for every no vote,” he said.
Because it requires a two-thirds majority to pass, Upton said he’s going to keep the Measure C campaign rolling until the end.
Upton, who is a former county supervisor, said he believes the timing for a school bond measure in Tahoe is perfect.
“Interest rates are extremely low, construction costs will always inflate over time and all the schools in the district qualify for state money,” Upton said. “We’ll never be able to get the improvements that are needed at a lower cost.”
The passage of Measure C by voters will qualify LTUSD for an additional $10 million in state funds. Without Measure C, Upton said the $10 million will go to another school district.
Collectively, the $27 million from Measure C and the state bond will go directly into facilities improvements, which Upton said are badly needed.
“I’m a graduate of these schools and they’re no different from when I was there in 1960,” said Upton, a graduate of the class of 1962 from South Tahoe High. “We need technological improvements.”
Anita Vieites, a teacher in the LTUSD for almost 40 years, agreed.
“So many of our schools are so old,” she said. “We’ve had problems with roofs in the past and recently we’ve had busted pipes in the math wing at the high school which caused water damage.
“The district has been very responsive over the years to the needs but it’s time to get in there and do something more than maintenance.”
If Measure C is passed this May, the school district has projects scheduled to begin this summer.
The first will be upgrading the South Tahoe Middle School. The project will include a new science building, heating and plumbing improvements and storm drainage improvements to comply with Lake Tahoe environmental water quality requirements.
Bijou Community, Meyers Elementary and South Tahoe High are on the list for the following summer.
“We have a lot of projects that would happen very quickly,” Upton said. “Every school will have significant benefits.”
And it’s not just the kindergarten through high school students who will benefit from Measure C improvements. College students at Lake Tahoe Community College have a stake in this as well.
“We use school district classrooms and the quality of those classrooms directly affect our programs,” Lake Tahoe Community College President Dr. Guy Lease said. “We’re very supportive of Measure C.”
What: Special election for Bond Measure C
Who: Registered voters in Lake Tahoe Unified School District
When: Tuesday, May 4
Where: Local precinct polls
Measure C will finance major projects including:
— Addition of classrooms at South Tahoe High to relieve overcrowding
— Five new science labs at South Tahoe Middle School
— Replacement of the 30-year-old wiring, plumbing, heating and ventilating systems
— An upgrade and construction of additional rest rooms
— Installation of additional electrical wiring for computers and technology
— An upgrade of storm drainages to comply with environmental requirements
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